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Can something as simple as a candy dish start a civil ripple effect that brings people together despite their differences of opinion, improves how they connect and communicate with one another and, maybe, begins to change an entire culture?

It is just one strategy and hope of  CivilityWorks, a self-described “ad hoc organization on the UW Oshkosh campus dedicated to enriching the lives of others through civil engagement.”

CivilityWorks’ inaugural “Day of Civility” event is scheduled at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh on Wednesday, May 23. Designed to build action and awareness around campus and community civility initiatives, the Day of Civility will bring student perspectives on the movement into the spotlight while launching a handful of initiatives furthering the organization’s mission.

The day begins with a 7:30 a.m. public meeting on May 23 in Room 133 of the Fox Valley Technical College Riverside Campus in Oshkosh. The meeting is designed as a community report on CiviltyWorks’ and the connected Oshkosh Civility Project’s efforts. Information and an easy-to-use RSVP form are available online.

“It is amazing to me to see how people really want to find ways to say ‘thank you’ to people who make our University so strong,” said Jodi Anthony, a UW Oshkosh payroll and benefits specialist who volunteers as convener of CivilityWorks.

The Day of Civility events continue at 12:30 p.m. in the Multicultural Education Center (MEC) on the UW Oshkosh campus. There, in addition to the launch of special pin and candy-dish campaigns – grassroots initiatives designed to engage and activate new civility allies – a panel will share perspectives on the UW Oshkosh campus climate and how it compares and contrasts to those at other UW campuses and in other communities. Refreshments will be provided. The guest panelists include:

  • Greg Hartman, Fox Valley United Council Field Organizer, a UW-Stevens Point alumnus who works closely with UW Oshkosh, UW-Manitowoc, UW-Fond du Lac, UW-Washington County, UW-Fox Valley, and UW-Sheboygan student governments, organizations and clubs.
  • UW Oshkosh students Josh Joiner and Kyle Callen, both of whom are active in a several student clubs and organizations, including student government groups, Model United Nations and Student Legal Services.

“We all are trying to find ways to get students involved in our efforts,” said Rae Ann Wetzel, office manager for the Oshkosh Student Association and Student Legal Services. “A number of our efforts are really trying to build a sense of community across all areas of the campus, and across all functions and jobs.”

Randy Hedge, of UW Oshkosh’s Administrative Services division, said CivilityWorks’ “recognition programs” have become and will continue to serve as important awareness-builders and support systems for the 1,700-employee institution. One of additional goals of CivilityWorks is to encourage University employees to affirm one another’s efforts in a challenging economic era and a divisive political atmosphere.

“We really hope to provide avenues for colleagues and peers to say to their co-workers, ‘You’ve done a good job, especially in light of the challenging times we live in.’” Hedge said.

“All of these efforts are being developed and advanced to build on one of our greatest strengths:  the people of commitment and compassion that make UW Oshkosh such an ideal place to live, work, learn, study, teach and grow at,” said Tom Grogan, UW Oshkosh special assistant to the Chancellor and a member of the growing CivilityWorks and Oshkosh Civility Project teams.

CivilityWorks’ roots are firmly planted in the Oshkosh Civility Project, a 2010 initiative designed to advance the “Speak Your Peace” campaign. That campaign was developed and set into action by the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation and other communities as part of a national tide of civic improvement efforts.

The Oshkosh Civility Project’s efforts connect to the campus’ as they spread throughout the greater Oshkosh community. More than 800 people have signed the organization’s “Civility Pledge.” Nonprofit, education and business partners continue collaborating and sponsoring forums, awareness campaigns and events with the basic goal of strengthening interpersonal communication skills to build a stronger community.

Learn more, RSVP for May 23 morning meeting, take the survey: